Friday, 25 July 2014

Electoral plan could divide Saltcoats

Saltcoats could be split into two different electoral areas if plans by North Ayrshire Council are accepted by the Boundary Commission for Scotland.

The controversial idea was backed at last Wednesday’s meeting of the Council and will now be submitted to the Commission. Three Towns Independent councillors Ronnie McNicol and John Hunter voted against the move but a majority of the SNP administration and Labour councillors supported the proposed change.

In a paper presented to the Council meeting, Chief Executive Elma Murray argued boundary changes to electoral Wards (the areas represented by councillors) are necessary to align them with Neighbourhood Planning Areas and to comply with Boundary Commission recommendations in terms of the number of electors in each Ward.

Currently North Ayrshire has 30 councillors, but Ms Murray’s paper set-out “exceptional circumstances” that she believes justify the district receiving an additional 5 elected members. The Boundary Commission will not consider submissions on Ward changes until next year.

Under the Council’s proposals, the current two Wards of Ardrossan & Arran and Saltcoats & Stevenston would become Ardrossan & Saltcoats West and Stevenston & Saltcoats East. The division of Saltcoats is recommended despite the Chief Executive’s paper acknowledging Boundary Commission guidance that, as far as possible, “towns should not be split between Wards”.

In other proposed changes, the Isle of Arran would find itself in a Ward with West Kilbride and Fairlie. In addition, new Wards of Dalry & Kilbirnie West, Beith & Kilbirnie East, and Largs, Skelmorlie & Cumbrae would be created. Changes would also apply to Wards in Irvine but Kilwinning would remain as an electoral area on its own.

On recommending North Ayrshire should have an extra 5 councillors, Chief Executive Elma Murray states, “The justification is that this is the best means of aligning Wards with Neighbourhood Planning Areas. Those Neighbourhood Planning Areas best represent communities, both in terms of geography and demographics.”

Ms Murray noted, “If the Commission agree 35 councillors, further work will be undertaken during 2015 to determine the exact boundaries of Wards. This could also involve splitting polling districts to provide a more natural geographical boundary.”

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